Wilson Zhang: Kyudo

I took Kyudo classes, which was held in the Kyoto Budo Center, because I wanted to learn something culturally related to Japan, so I chose Kyudo, a Japanese martial arts of archery. I had never done Kyudo before, but as I continued to take classes I slowly improved from the Sensei’s amazing lessons and resources. I found myself enjoying learning the techniques and the cultural aspects of Kyudo. If you want to learn a unique martial art, I really recommend Kyudo.

For future study abroad students, in any CIP you choose, my advice is that when you don’t understand something, the most important part is to ask questions. Not knowing what the other person is saying, can ultimately cause more confusion to both you and the other person. By asking questions, eventually, not only, you will be able to learn new vocabulary, but also the other person can speak in a way that can be much clearer to you.

Ayane Garrison: Aikido

For my CIP I took Aikido classes as an absolute beginner. Aikido is a Japanese martial art that focuses on redirecting your oppon

ent’s momentum to defend yourself, rather than offensively attacking. I’ve really enjoyed not only learning Aikido’s incredible techniques and philosophy, but getting to know and learn from the people in the Dojo I’ve been visiting. My Aikido classes have been in a warm, welcoming environment, largely due to the kindness and care Sugai-Sensei spreads throughout the Dojo. I’d highly recommend taking Aikido classes at Chiseikan Dojo if you are at all interested in Japanese martial arts, whether a beginner or a black belt. It’s a great opportunity to meet a variety of people of different ages, and work on a useful and super cool skill. Both English and Japanese are spoken in the Dojo, so I’d recommend asking that the Senseis speak to you only in Japanese, which they were happy to do for me once they understood I was hoping to improve my language skills.

 

Wanlin Jin: Yoga

 

This semester I did yoga at a local yoga studio. I did the beginner level yoga class for the first half of the semester, and the classes were inside my comfort zone because the movements weren’t really hard. Furthermore, since there were a lot of foreign learners in the studio, the classes were taught in both English and Japanese so that everyone could follow. The later half of the semester, I switched to Ashtanga yoga, which was my first time to try and it was really hard. However, it was also rewarding to witness my own progress within just a few lessons.

I felt really comfortable when I was in the studio, because the atmosphere there was just so soft and gentle, and everyone I encountered seemed to be nice even though I didn’t really exchange words with them. I like practicing there because learners wouldn’t compete with each other (which is usually the case of yoga) and just focus on their own bodies, but everyone would be happy to offer some help if it’s within their capacity. Therefore, I really had an unforgattable experience there.

Advice for whoever read this post: first of all thank you for reading! I would suggest just go with your guts, go for wharever you are passionate about and take the first step. Be aware of the cultural differences, so try not to be rude, but it’s always OK to ask questions politely about anything you don’t understand. Consult your teachers, peers, if necessary and I’m sure you will enjoy your CIP!

Uriel Doddy – Kyūdō

For my CIP, I took kyūdō lessons at the Kyoto City Budō Center. Kyūdō is a very unique and interesting sport (quite different from western archery) with a pretty steep learning curve, and because most people in the dojo speak little English, I would imagine it would be a bit difficult for someone without a fair amount of conversation experience in Japanese.

However, for someone who is patient and passionate, the language barrier shouldn’t stop you from trying it. The instructors are very kind and patient and often physically demonstrate the techniques they’re describing, and it’s very rewarding to feel like you learned a traditional Japanese sport in Japanese. It gave me a lot of valuable firsthand experience in a new context, and was a true highlight of my semester.

Jessica Frantzen: Kyudo

For my CIP, I learned kyudo, or Japanese archery, at the Kyoto City Budo Center Kyudojo under Furuya-sensei (entirely in Japanese!). I learned the process of kyudo all the way from entering the dojo properly and respectfully to firing with two arrows in hand, which was surprisingly complex and something I still make mistakes with from time to time.

In learning kyudo, I’ve had both times where I get frustrated with myself for making the same mistakes over and over and times where I’m proud of the progress I make. Moreover, I’ve learned a lot about the importance of respect for others (as seen in the proper bows and procedures we learn for entering and leaving the dojo, and even in the process of firing the bow) and self-improvement in this sport that I hope to take with me to other, future activities. In kyudo, what matters most is not winning, but slowly and surely improving on oneself without being in a hurry.

To anyone interested in practicing kyudo as a CIP, I would advise you to remember that kyudo is a complex sport, and you’re not going to be able to perfect all of the movements in one go. One place to start is learning the eight steps of kyudo before going in, so you can know what your teacher’s talking about when they mention them. If you can, coming in early and staying late will allow you to learn a bit faster, since you’ll get more practice in, and you’ll also get a chance to get to know your teacher better. But mostly, be sure to give yourself patience, ask your teacher often if you have questions on whether you’re doing something right, and enjoy being able to take time to slowly improve on yourself and learn such a traditional and complex sport!

Ben Wolstein: Judo

For my CIP, I joined the Kyoto University Judo Club and Enshin Dojo. At both of these clubs, I had a great experience and made a lot of new friends. As I already had been doing Judo in the U.S. for a couple of years, it was a great way to build on skills that I was already developing, while experiencing it in the place where it was invented. The two dojos were fairly different from each other: the university club held practices almost every day for two and a half hours and focused on newaza (ground techniques) more than tachiwaza (standing techniques). Meanwhile, Enshin dojo held practices twice a week and had people of all ages participating. Even for me as someone who is really passionate about judo, the Kyoto University team was a lot, and if I had continued attending the practices at the same pace throughout the semester that I was at the beginning, my whole experience in Japan would have consisted of judo. I really do feel that I got to make some meaningful relationships through the sport/martial art, and I’m certain that my Japanese improved greatly as a result. I’m really glad I had the chance to practice judo in Japan, and if you would like to as well, I would definitely recommend Enshin Dojo!

Megan Chen: Karate (Spring)

I attended the same dojo, Goshonouchi Dojo, as I did in the past fall semester, to practice Japan Karate Association-style Shotokan karate.

This semester, I became a lot closer to the members of the dojo and even started meeting with them outside of the dojo on occasion. I also managed to pass two belt level tests while here, which will transfer back home to the US.

If possible, I really recommend doing an academic year because I felt that I got a lot closer to people in my second semester. Also, do not be afraid to just go up to people and talk to them if you are having a hard time making friends.

Karma Dorjee: Kyudo

 

This semester for my CIP, I took Kyudo lessons at the Kyoto Budo Center, located in the Sakyo ward, approximately 15 mins away from campus by public transit. Throughout the course of 10 weeks, I learned everything from acts of paying/showing respect upon entering and exiting the dojo, to shooting from a distance of 28 meters. 

Overall, my Kyudo sensei and senpais were all very supportive of me taking up the bow despite only being there for a short period of 10 weeks. Rather than hitting the target, Kyudo places a lot of emphasis on one’s actions and form; thus a majority of the lessons focused on how to show respect (through bowing and other small gestures), and practicing how to hold a bow and draw and release without an arrow. It was only until the last 3-4 weeks that we started using an arrow. Lastly, the lessons don’t offer a lot of opportunity to interact with other members of the dojo as everyone is there to practice Kyudo instead of socially interacting with one another; thus to practice Japanese, you find yourself practicing listening for most of the time.

One piece of advice that I would leave is that practicing one’s form and gestures of respect outside of class is important and will prove to be very helpful as having lessons just once a week is not enough to retain everything and have it perfected the next week. 



Peining Jia: 愛弓会(Kyuudo Group)

This semester, I joined a community Kyuudo group(Aiyumikai) which practices twice a week at Shiramine Jingu, close to Doshisha Imadegawa campus. I have been interested in doing Kyuudo because I have watched an anime about it and always wanted to try it out. Kyuudo is slightly different from archery and is relatively specific to Japan, so it will be hard to find any place to do it outside of Japan. I first searched online for a Kyuudo class, but the registration closed at the time I decided I wanted to do Kyuudo. Recommended by the teachers, I reached out to this place which I now find extraordinarily fantastic.

It was a bit hard at first. Because this place is not a professional classroom, people tend to join for a long span, less about learning for beginners but more of a practice and getting better. So one of the members I talked to said it would be difficult to let me in at first when I said I only got three months here. She said I was free to hang around and watch, and I did so. Later, more people came to practice, and she introduced me to Sensei, who decides who gets to join. I expressed that I wanted to do Kyuudo, even though I only got three months and might not be able to shoot at the real target. Sensei accepted me at last and told me to come as much as possible so that I could practice more and might be able to take a try at the actual ones.

The subsequent practices went smoothly. I went to every practice I could and progressed a lot. I did not wait until the last practice to go to the actual target. Although I have not hit a target yet, I am happy with how close I could get. I also made a friend there, who goes to another university in Kyoto, and we hung out several times for dinner and boba. I got to learn more about Kyuudo and the group itself. I have not mentioned the anime I watched about Kyuudo, but people brought it up, and we had a happy conversation. There were some small happenings every other week, but people were friendly and helpful.

If I were to give advice, I would say to reach out early. Japanese semester starts in October, so everything basically begins around that time. And some stop accepting new members after the recruitment. So reaching out earlier before everything starts might be a good choice. I am not sure about the spring semester, but I think KCJS Sensei will be happy to tell you.
Besides that, don’t hesitate to speak if you are to practice your Japanese. People you meet in CIP might differ from Kaiwa partners, who usually be friends with you to practice English, and you may communicate in a mixture of English and Japanese. Usually, they only speak Japanese and expect you to speak Japanese. So it is a good chance to force yourself to practice. Don’t be afraid. People are friendly and happy to talk, usually. If they don’t, it is not your fault. Try somebody else.

After all, good luck with your CIP and I hope you have a good time in Japan 🙂

Fabiola Alvarez: Dancer at Fly Dance Studio

For my Community Involvement Project, I had the opportunity to dance at Fly Dance Studio in Kyoto. I have been dancing for over 10 years and I want to work in the dance industry in the future, so I wanted to participate in the performing arts scene in Japan. Fly Dance Studio specializes in Hip-Hop, so I had the chance to improve my skills in this style. I grew stronger and learned a lot in terms of technique, and I was able to step out of my comfort zone in using and understanding Japanese.

One of the first things that stood out to me the most was how dancers greeted each other when they entered the studio. Everyone said “ohayou gozaimasu” even though the studio opens at 4pm. At first I was confused, but soon learned that this is common in the performing arts world in Japan. The hiphop culture at this studio was more westernized than I expected, with English songs being used a lot more than Japanese songs, and everyone dressed in western-style dance wear. The rap industry is huge in America, which is likely the reason these English songs are used for more upbeat choreography. However, in the Jazz Hiphop classes that were much slower and more lyrical, Japanese songs were more frequently used. I learned lots of vocabulary related to movement and body parts. Because my teachers were both men and women, I had the opportunity to practice listening to various genders and their way of speaking. Some teachers were easier to understand than others, but overall I felt myself improving a lot in my listening comprehension and understanding of Kansai dialect.

Perhaps another interesting feature of this studio is that it does not separate by age. In the United States, it is common to have separate classes for adults, kids, and teens, but there were large age gaps in all of my classes at Fly, so some people were as young as seven or eight-years-old or as old as 60. Even though it can be difficult for the teacher to adjust to student gaps in dance experience and physical ability, as a student it felt very welcoming to be able to take the same class regardless of age. Everyone learned at their own pace and was able to adjust the choreography based on their own physical abilities.

Fly Dance Studio will work you hard, but you will get better. The instructors are very good at what they do; there was not a single class that I did not enjoy, and the level was perfect for me. If you do not have any dance experience, I would recommend sticking to the very beginner classes, but do not be afraid to challenge yourself with the more advanced classes!